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by neverspook on Wed Jan 10, 2018 3:22 am
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Just wondering if anyone has any recommendations for the best airline to get from Vancouver or Seattle to Ushuaia and also to Punta Arenas. Looking for one that is reliable, safe and not too strict when it come to carrying on camera gear.

Also hotel recommendations on Punta Arenas would be great.

Thanks,
Roberta Olenick
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by E.J. Peiker on Wed Jan 10, 2018 4:47 am
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Not a lot of options. For Ushuaia you would take whatever is most convenient for you to Buenos Aires and then Aerolinias Argentina (which sucks) to Ushuaia. It is not a good airline and depending on the whim of the check-in agent, they may force you check your gear but if you keep it on your back at check-in it is much less likely. I once made the mistake of taking it off while checking in for the BA to Ushuaia leg and that triggered them to weigh it and they forced me to check it or deny issuing me a boarding pass. But that is the only time that happened on 3 trips to Ushuaia/El Calafate (3 inbound and 2 outbound). One of those times, the plane showed up on the other end with not a single piece of luggage for anyone on the plane but that's a whole other story :)

As far as Punta Arenas is concerned, your best bet is to fly on whichever airline you want to Santiago, Chile and then LaTam to Punta Arenas. Expect that experience to be more similar to flying on North American Carriers. I've never spent the night in Punta.
 

by neverspook on Wed Jan 10, 2018 3:31 pm
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E.J. Peiker wrote:
Not a lot of options.  For Ushuaia you would take whatever is most convenient for you to Buenos Aires and then Aerolinias Argentina (which sucks) to Ushuaia.  It is not a good airline and depending on the whim of the check-in agent, they may force you check your gear but if you keep it on your back at check-in it is much less likely.  I once made the mistake of taking it off while checking in for the BA to Ushuaia leg and that triggered them to weigh it and they forced me to check it or deny issuing me a boarding pass.  But that is the only time that happened on 3 trips to Ushuaia/El Calafate (3 inbound and 2 outbound).  One of those times, the plane showed up on the other end with not a single piece of luggage for anyone on the plane but that's a whole other story :)

As far as Punta Arenas is concerned, your best bet is to fly on whichever airline you want to Santiago, Chile and then LaTam to Punta Arenas.  Expect that experience to be more similar to flying on North American Carriers.  I've never spent the night in Punta.



Thanks, E.J.
Did they let you gate check your camera bag? Or check-check it, if you know what I mean? The latter would be a disaster for me as I use a Gura Gear pack that would not provide enough protection for regular checking.
 

by DavidSutton on Wed Jan 10, 2018 5:03 pm
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I noticed Aerolinias Argentina particularly catch photographers flying out of Ushuaia, rather than in. Though it may have been just that day.
Your best bet may be to keep your checked luggage under 16 kg and sling your backpack over one shoulder.
Here in NZ I was warned they may leave early or not at all. So I allowed an extra few days, which was just as well, since they didn't fly at all that day. Pointing out to their office staff that I would miss my connection to Ushuaia, they responded that all the flights were booked but they would see what they could do.
On board the plane wasn't in the best of condition, but serviceable. They didn't bother with the details of where the life vests were, as if we ditched we'd all die anyway.
On arrival in Buenos Aires one of the cabin crew gave us our re-allocated tickets and a taxi chit for a kamikaze driver who got us across town to the domestic airport in under half an hour averaging 130 km/hr.
We were genuinely grateful for that. It gave us 15 minutes to check in, get on board, and watch the ground crew smoking while refuelling the neighbouring plane.
David
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by Vivek on Wed Jan 10, 2018 7:24 pm
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DavidSutton wrote:
I noticed Aerolinias Argentina particularly catch photographers flying out of Ushuaia, rather than in. Though it may have been just that day.
Your best bet may be to keep your checked luggage under 16 kg and sling your backpack over one shoulder.
Here in NZ I was warned they may leave early or not at all. So I allowed an extra few days, which was just as well, since they didn't fly at all that day. Pointing out to their office staff that I would miss my connection to Ushuaia, they responded that all the flights were booked but they would see what they could do.
On board the plane wasn't in the best of condition, but serviceable. They didn't bother with the details of where the life vests were, as if we ditched we'd all die anyway.
On arrival in Buenos Aires one of the cabin crew gave us our re-allocated tickets and a taxi chit for a kamikaze driver who got us across town to the domestic airport in under half an hour averaging 130 km/hr.
We were genuinely grateful for that. It gave us 15 minutes to check in, get on board, and watch the ground crew smoking while refuelling the neighbouring plane.
David


We just returned from Argentina (and visited Antarctica and Chile during the trip) and as David says above, Aerolineas Argentinas is a joke. They cancelled the outbound flight from BA to Ushuaia even though the plane was at the gate. Apparently some personnel strike. All information regarding the cancellation was very thin and not believable. After spending 9 hours on the airport and spending the night at BA Hilton (we paid), we finally made it to Ushuaia the next day. They did NOT check the backpack which was Kiboko-22L with a 500/4 lens and two bodies etc. Thankfully we had a few days in Ushuaia before our voyage to Antarctica. 

If I ever went back, I will do the following:
[ul]
[li]Have at least two full days in Ushuaia before the Antarctica voyage. [/li]
[li]If possible, have the company who I am traveling with to Antarctica, book the flights to and from Ushuaia.[/li]
[li]If the above is not possible, book two tickets on Aerolineas Argentinas on two consecutive days and make sure they are refundable tickets. I will NOT book the cheapest Economy class but the next higher class that allows 23kg luggage. Note the number of bags allowed as well (didn't check before booking this time). [/li]
[li]If I make the first flight and reach Ushuaia, simply cancel the one on the second day from Ushuaia. [/li]
[/ul]

On the way out, we did NOT fly out of Ushuaia but instead drove north, passing through Punta Arenas and then reaching El Calafate and then taking the flight from there to BA and back to US. 

In Punta Arenas, we stayed at Hotel De Almagro (I think I am spelling this right), and it was a solid 3 star hotel. The b/fast options were quite thin, but overall was a good hotel - clean and with good Wifi. Also a few blocks from restaurants in the downtown - a blessing when you have kids with you. 

Hope this helps. 
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by neverspook on Wed Jan 10, 2018 9:25 pm
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That is all very alarming! I don't have a lot of spare time to go to BA days ahead of time... :(

Roberta
 

by DavidSutton on Wed Jan 10, 2018 10:25 pm
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neverspook wrote:
That is all very alarming! I don't have a lot of spare time to go to BA days ahead of time... :(

Roberta



Forewarned is forearmed I suppose. Even if you can get to Ushuaia a day ahead that will give you a little leeway if there is difficulty. When I let the office staff know I was catching a boat they went out of their way to help.
David
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by E.J. Peiker on Thu Jan 11, 2018 1:17 pm
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Aerolinias Argentinas is the worst major airline in the Western Hemisphere! As I stated in my initial response, one time not a single person got their luggage. The explanation, it was raining in BA so we didn't load the luggage and it will get there with the next flight if it stops raining.

The rules vary from check-in agent to check-in agent. If you make it past them, you can bring anything on board. It's getting past the check-in agent that's the trick if you ask me. If there are others for your trip on your flight, I suggest having them watch your backpack while you check in your checked luggage so taht you don't have it when you go up to the counter. It's a third world operation run by a completely incompetent fourth world airline.
 

by neverspook on Thu Jan 11, 2018 2:49 pm
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Thanks, E.J. I don't know whether there will be others on my flight or not. We all just meet down in Ushuaia but I guess there could be others on my flight as I don't expect there are that many flights.

Did they make you check or just gate check your gear the time they did not let you carry it on?

Roberta
 

by E.J. Peiker on Thu Jan 11, 2018 5:47 pm
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Quote:
The rules vary from check-in agent to check-in agent. If you make it past them, you can bring anything on board. It's getting past the check-in agent that's the trick if you ask me.


That pretty much answered the question ;)

Nobody gives a darn what you bring on board once you get past the check-in desk, at least in my experience.  What was frustrating to me when I had to check my gear was that my backpack was smaller than half the stuff people were bringing on board but I basically just got in the wrong check-in agent line and made the mistake of taking my backpack off and setting it on the ground next to my suitcase.

But thousands of photographers with millions of dollars worth of equipment travel to Ushuaia every year to go to Antarctica or Tierra del Fuego or on the same flight that continues on to El Calafate for Patagonia and make it there fine with all of their gear...
 

by neverspook on Thu Jan 11, 2018 7:15 pm
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Thanks, E.J. I do always keep my backpack on in airports anyway.

How is American Airlines for carryon stringency etc? Looks like that might offer the best connections.

Roberta
 

by E.J. Peiker on Thu Jan 11, 2018 9:39 pm
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neverspook wrote:
Thanks, E.J. I do always keep my backpack on in airports anyway.

How is American Airlines for carryon stringency etc? Looks like that might offer the best connections.

Roberta

American is great for that, no checks anywhere.  I fly them 90% of the time due to PHX being a hub city for AA.  Just make sure you don't get what they call Basic Economy - that does not allow the use of overhead compartments (this is not applicable on the foreign flight but is on any flights within the US and possibly Canada).  Make sure you get the ticket labeled Main Cabin or above and you won't have any problem from a standpoint of being allowed.  The biggest problem with AA (and UA and Delta and just about every US carrier except Southwest) is that due to their practice of charging for checked luggage, people try to bring everything but the kitchen sink on board and if you get a boarding group that is 7 or above (they have 9 groups) there is a good chance there won't be any overhead space.  To avod that, you can book what is called a Main Cabin Extra seat which puts you in boarding group 4 or the first group after first class and the premium members.  Again, this tends to only be a problem on flights within NA because the overseas flights don't require payment for luggage and flights to Argentina or Chile (presumably through DFW, MIA, LAX or ORD) are on wide body planes which never have overhead space problems.  Hope that helps, this coming from an AA 1.5 million miler :D
 

by neverspook on Thu Jan 11, 2018 9:41 pm
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Thanks, E.J. Very helpful info on AA.
 

by Hoppy on Fri Jan 12, 2018 12:46 am
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ILAIA Hotel
Capitán Ignacio Carrera Pinto 351, Punta Arenas, Región de Magallanes y de la Antártica Chilena, Chile

We stayed here twice in 2013. Clean, comfortable and great people. Loved the breakfasts.
It was a short walk into the city
A SLR always has the wrong lens attached

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by Vivek on Fri Jan 12, 2018 11:20 am
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E.J. Peiker wrote:
Aerolinias Argentinas is the worst major airline in the Western Hemisphere!  As I stated in my initial response, one time not a single person got their luggage.  The explanation, it was raining in BA so we didn't load the luggage and it will get there with the next flight if it stops raining.

The rules vary from check-in agent to check-in agent.  If you make it past them, you can bring anything on board.  It's getting past the check-in agent that's the trick if you ask me.  If there are others for your trip on your flight, I suggest having them watch your backpack while you check in your checked luggage so taht you don't have it when you go up to the counter.  It's a third world operation run by a completely incompetent fourth world airline.


Absolutely 100% true! I will NEVER fly AA (Aerolineas Argentinas) again if I can help it. LATAM also flies to Ushuaia from AEP. They have fewer flights, but seem to be more professional. They probably also have a tie-up with American Airlines. We also found out that there was a chartered flight from AEP to Ushuaia operated by LATAM. I would take LATAM next time if I ever muster enough courage to go back. 

Aerolineas completely messed up our birding schedule for Tierra del Fuego NP - a very beautiful park I would've loved to spend some time in. 
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by E.J. Peiker on Fri Jan 12, 2018 8:06 pm
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If LATAM now makes that flight I would definitely go on them and yes, they are part of the same alliance as AA which could simplify things some.
 

by neverspook on Fri Jan 12, 2018 10:51 pm
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Thank you, all of you. Very helpful.

Roberta
 

by Ron Niebrugge on Tue Jan 16, 2018 7:24 pm
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You have received lots of great advice. I have made 6 trips down there with photo groups, and can say that the randomness of check on enforcement is frustrating and stressful. That said, everyone has always made it with their gear on the trips I have been on.

I also would avoid Aerolineas if possible. I would look at LAN or LATAN or whatever their name is now, or American - this way you could go via LAX and avoid some of the hubs more susceptible to weather delays.

Other advice I might add.

- be friendly when you check in to your flight, greet them in Spanish if you can, it goes a long ways.

- Try to minimize the appearance of your carry-on. Keep it on your back. I have also had people watch my carry-on so that I could check in without it. Then reciprocated so that my friends could check in without theirs.

- Allow lots of time. I like getting to the airport extra early, even little Ushuaia airport is a lot less stressful if you are early. And if you have to cross Buenos Aires to change airport (you probably do) allow lots of time for this as well. When leaving Ushuaia, I prefer to take my own cab so that I could arrive a good half hour before the rest of the travelers off the ship - that is if it is an organized group or tour. Once those buses with the remaining passengers show up, there is a lot more scrutiny and ciaos. It is worth the $10 cab ride to beat the rush.

Travel early. Santiago, Ushuaia are nice places to hang out. I usually arrive 3 nights early. I'm always surprised at how many people arrive the day before the ship leaves. There is way too many chances for flight or luggage delays - just spend a few hundred dollars a night and arrive a day or two early. Plus it gives you a chance to catch up on sleep and overcome jet lag.

Have fun!
Ron Niebrugge

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by neverspook on Wed Jan 17, 2018 12:40 am
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Thanks everyone.
Really appreciate your additional comments, Ron.

How about United Airlines? Does it treat photographers as nicely as American?

Roberta
 

by Ron Niebrugge on Wed Jan 17, 2018 1:23 pm
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You are welcome. I don't have any experience with United. I flew Delta, American and LAN / LATAN at least as far as Santiago or Buenos Aires. My airline choice was usually motivated by who was an Alaska Airline partner. :) I might add, I found by flying with LAN / LANTAN from LAX, I found I was definitely treated better on the Buenos Aires to Ushuia leg, then when traveling with the U.S. carriers.

The other consideration - and I used to spend WAY too much time on planning this travel - but all things being nearly equal, if you can fly on a 787, it is a much better experience on those long over-night flights. LAN and American both used 787's the last time I went South - that could have changed.
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